Army Pfc. Stephanie Patterson, a 21-year-old Dalton, Ga., native, has been stationed in Iraq with the Chattanooga-based 591st Transportation Detachment since last summer. She is scheduled to return to the United States in June. In an e-mail interview, she shared some of her experiences as the only woman in her unit.
Q: What exactly are you doing over there, and what are conditions like?
A: Movement control - coordinate, monitor and control the movement of cargo by convoy. We prepare the documents needed for sending cargo (equipment, personal gear, vehicles, etc.) and track the cargo until it reaches its destination. We are close to the Kuwait border. It is pretty quiet around here, actually.
Q: How do the men in your unit treat you?
A: They treat me just like one of the guys, which I must admit is kind of weird at times, especially when they start talking about things that, well, most guys usually don't talk about in front of females. I do have my own room, which is pretty nice most of the time.
Q: Do you see other women at all?
A: There are other females on this base, but we work 12-hour days every day, so we really don't get time to go and meet other people except for the people we deal with on a business level. I do wish that I had at least one other female in the unit sometimes. Just someone to talk girl talk to. I have a sister in my age group (back in Dalton) so I'm used to having her around all the time. ... She's my best friend, and not having another female around makes me miss her that much more.
Q: When you enlisted, were you worried about the male-dominated culture the Army is sometimes known for?
A: I never really thought about it that way until I actually joined and saw the percent difference between males and females. It's really like 10 to 1. But it doesn't bother me. I think our unit is one of the very few with only one female. And if I'm not mistaken, we had a female or two that has been added to our unit since we've been in Iraq.
Q: Do you think women should be allowed to fight in frontline combat positions?
A: Hmm ... I think that females should be able to go infantry and fight on the "front line" alongside the guys. They say that it's equal opportunity but yet females still can't hold these (jobs). Granted, I'm sure there are a lot of females that wouldn't be able to handle it, but that shouldn't stop the ones that could from holding those spots.